The Deutsche Eishockey Liga (English: German Ice Hockey League) or DEL, is a German professional ice hockey league that was founded in 1994. It was formed as a replacement for the Eishockey-Bundesliga and became the new top-tier league in Germany as a result. Unlike the old Bundesliga, the DEL is not under the administration of the German Ice Hockey Federation. The DEL currently has the highest number of American and Canadian players outside North America.
In the 2015–16 season the league was the second-best supported in Europe, behind the Swiss National League A, with an average attendance of 6,674 spectators per game.
The Bosman ruling, a 1995 decision of the European Court of Justice regarding the movement of labor in soccer, had profound influence on the league. The old Bundesliga had national character with German clubs competing for the German title using mostly German players. After the ruling European Union players were excluded from the "foreign" player quota. In the 1995–96 season following the decision, the DEL teams employed 97 EU players. This lowered costs significantly, enabling smaller teams to compete more effectively. However, frequent player moves were not viewed positively by the fans, resulting in smaller attendance numbers.
Following an agreement with the DEB the league renamed itself as "DEL – Die 1. Bundesliga" in the 1999–2000 season, while reintroducing relegation and promotion to/from the 2nd Ice Hockey Bundesliga.
The 2004–05 season was significant due to the NHL lockout. 26 NHL players came to play the season in the DEL, including Jamie Langenbrunner, Erik Cole, Stéphane Robidas, Doug Weight, Mike York and several German national team players – Jochen Hecht, Olaf Kölzig, and Marco Sturm.
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